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Heroes and Healthcare

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Message Judy Ramsey
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There are very few heroes in my world today, but Reggie Cervantes just moved to the top of the list.  We can talk all day long about a post 9/11 world in which we live, but no one puts a better face on it than Reggie.  A native New Yorker, Reggie was a first responder at ground zero on Sept 11, 2001, who still sheds a lot of tears just talking about that day.

Reggie worked as a Benefits Administrator for a private Foster Care Agency for money, but describes her real job as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), because her parents raised her to believe Community Service was just what you do.  After years of training, Reggie got the call on 9/11 and was the first woman to set up at Shea Stadium and quickly managed to coordinate medical personnel from that area to the scene shortly before the second tower fell. 

With tears in her eyes, insisting this was exactly what she trained for, Reggie described watching fellow volunteers and firefighters go in and not come out.  She still feels guilty for not saving more of her fellow citizens, although out of 50,000 possible occupants in those two buildings, only 3,000 were lost.  She insists, if only they could have been more efficient and faster, they could have saved more lives, although they were ill equipped with breathing apparatus or radios.

When Reggie Cervantes began to get sick, she lost her job, lost her health care, lost her car and her house and became just another homeless statistic.  Despite what she had done for her fellow Americans, Workers Compensation for 9/11 responders would not pay for her health care because she was considered a volunteer.  With nothing left, Reggie took her kids and moved to Oklahoma City in September of 2002.  Because of the OKC bombing in 1995, Reggie believed doctors there knew enough to treat her children who were also suffering, along with their mom, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  But Reggie didn't rely completely on others for her therapy, and wrote a book with her children, My Mommy Has PTSD, published by Author House and available on line (all proceeds are donated) and has completed a second children's book about 9/11 to be used as a teaching resource.

Regardless of what our government would have us believe about how everything changed after 9/11, the real tragedy of that day remains mostly ignored by the mainstream media as well as most Americans. Out of 70,000 registered responders in New York City, 30,000 are sick and 10,000 are terminally ill.  That's one in seven.  Is this how we treat our heroes?  Reggie and her colleagues are planning to hold signs in front of the White House if necessary to get the president to listen.  Even those with worse health care issues.  Perhaps, the president might listen, if the sick end up dying in front of the White House.  After all of the protesters leave, and no one has listened, what have they got to lose?

With a whole list of disorders, and no means of managing her chronic, terminal illness, Reggie wrote to Michael Moore when he requested stories from the public for his 2007 documentary, Sicko.  Moore featured Reggie in his film and took her to Cuba for some medical attention.  Doctors there gave Reggie a complete exam, plus follow up, determining illnesses not previously discovered, and sent her on her way with medical records, free of charge.  Upon her return to Oklahoma City, University of Oklahoma medical doctors refused continued treatment and sent Reggie on her way.  Their claim?  Cuba was not an accepted medical facility.

A former athlete and marathon runner, Reggie refused to give up.  She was outraged at the sentiment of some of her fellow Americans, that is, if you don't have the resources, you should just go away and die quietly.  Reggie started getting involved with advocacy groups for single payer health care and has participated in gatherings all over the country to promote complete health care reform in the US.  She has lobbied congress, has Rep. John Conyers on speed dial and attended Barack Obama's inauguration, even though he has yet to respond to her more than 30 letters.  Only in Oklahoma has she received death threats for her views, which may explain the lack of response to a press release on her appearance in Tulsa.

Here's a list of Reggie's ailments: Pulmonary Fibrosis, Asthma, COPD, Gastric Esophageal Reflux disease, Reactive Airway disease, Chronic fatigue, Chronic Kidney disease, Enlarged Liver and PTSD, yet she is tireless in her pursuit to help others.

As a member of the Tulsa Peace Fellowship, I felt so privileged to have Reggie at our monthly rally for "Healthcare Not Warfare" on the corner of 41st and Yale this Saturday.  With more attendance than usual, Reggie not only held signs on the corner, but talked with people in their cars about the need in this country for universal, single payer health care. According to Reggie, 68% of Americans support single payer health care, including most doctors and nurses. Yet, our representatives in Congress won't even allow advocates a seat at the table.

That's why Reggies's out there standing on street corners. She believes that "every American has the right to ask questions and get answers. That's constitutionally guaranteed, otherwise, we'd still be British."


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Secretary/Treasurer of Tulsa Peace Fellowship. Peace and impeachment activist commited to promoting progressive issues and uniting people around those issues to further a more peaceful and prosperous world.
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